Rush Hour Traffic

You are in rush hour traffic. You twist the throttle to fill the gap with the car ahead, before the red light stops the procession. Being halted when you’re at the front of the line is the worst.

There’s a person waiting for you some kilometers away. The meeting is supposed to start in twelve minutes, and you do not want to be that guy who arrives all flushed and sweaty to negotiate a deal, like they’re better than the rest of the world, like their time is precious. But, you did not leave early, because one time you had left ten minutes earlier, and arrived twenty minutes earlier, and there was nothing to do but wait, wait with all the accusing thoughts in your head, and you were so restless you couldn’t even listen to music or whatever, and that had felt like shit. So nowadays you play it cool and attempt to be the guy from Around the World in Eighty days. Although fictional, he was smooth.

There’s a crossing in front. A group is wading across the street. A bike accelerates from behind you, a machine unnecessarily loud and unnecessarily tall, an embodiment of a high horse in modern times, and blazes through the crossing. The people, barely a few feet away from the trail left, stop in shock. You arrive before them, stop your bike, and motion them to pass, which they do after a while. You’re not like that jerk. You’re a good guy.

Unfortunately, at the next intersection, you get stopped real close to the front. Actions, consequences. You leave your hands off the handles and wait. Waiting is the worst. You drum your fingers on the gas tank. You try to wedge your tongue between your teeth, where you can feel a leftover stuck from the earlier biryani. It does not work, but you keep trying anyway.

You look around you, at other people stuck in traffic. Everyone hurrying off somewhere, afraid of the stillness that might engulf them if they stopped. It was better this way. Better to keep climbing, to keep rushing, to keep hustling. Thinking, thoughts about anything that you couldn’t see or grab or make money off of, led to nowhere - and you had an empty stomach at the day’s end.

A young boy looks at you from the back seat of a taxi. You make a funny face towards him, but aren’t sure if he can see you through your helmet.

The vehicles in front rush ahead. You got distracted. The person behind honks in quick succession. Bastard, you think, while starting your bike. You make a face at the guy, but aren’t sure if he can see you through your helmet. You gain speed. There’s not much time left now.

You have to make a left at this point. The white lines do not allow this. There’s a cop at the intersection ahead in his fluorescent green vest. Legally, you are required to ride ahead, stop at the intersection for who knows how long, and then turn and ride back. You keep at the left edge, then turn and accelerate. The cop is not going to chase you, and he won’t have enough time to note your plate. Your helmet limits peripheral vision, so you don’t see the look on his face while turning.

The heat is rising. Office hours are knocking. Your armpits are damp and mind foggy. This is the last stretch of the main road. And it is jammed.

Looking at the legion of cars and bikes and rickshaws in front, you heave a sigh. There’s no possible way you will reach in time now, not by squeezing through impossible gaps, not by accelerating like a madman. Traffic has spelt your fate of becoming that guy who arrives late, of remaining that guy. It’s over.


One middle-aged man with a rusty bike turns his handle, a few cars in front of you. And climbs the sidewalk. He honks and his bike roars, quite feebly, and the pedestrians in front of him give way, fearing for their life, at least their toes. Unlikely Moses sputters on ahead, towards his destination.

Before getting a license, when you yourself marched on sidewalks, you hated such people with a vengeance, as much as you now hate drivers who keep the high beam on when approaching others. Now, you have this opportunity. You are right at the leftmost lane, right near where the sidewalk ends. There are no traffic cops to stop you and read your rights. Only the accusing stares and gestures of pedestrians. But they probably cannot see you through your helmet.

You have to decide. Do you climb the sidewalk?

Written on 19 May 2020